By Bret Amundson
On Monday, March 13th Manitoba officials announced the new waterfowl regulations that have been rumored for a couple of months.
Most of the changes that have been discussed are happening, with a few differences: The non-resident license draw will be 100% successful in the first year. After that the “allocations for each license type will be determined based on license sales, hunter questionnaire data from all user groups and stakeholder input.”
The changes are meant to protect waterfowl hunting opportunities in Manitoba for residents, but also non-resident freelance hunters who don’t have leased land in the province. According to information put out today by the province:
“The combination of the seven-day licence and associated draw for freelance
foreign resident hunters is intended to discourage visiting hunters from creating lasting
systems of control that inhibit other hunters.”
The other noteworthy change is that outfitters will be capped by the number of licenses they can sell. They’ve also dropped the number of licensed outfitters in the state, removing unused tags and those who weren’t properly operating.
The three new regulations regarding waterfowl hunters:
- Purchase a seven-day Foreign Resident Migratory Game Bird Licence through a licenced Manitoba outfitter;
- Enter the Foreign Resident Migratory Game Bird Licence Draw (June 15 – July 15) to become eligible for a seven-day licence; or
- Qualify as a land interest holder and receive a grandfathered Foreign Resident Legacy Migratory Game Bird Licence.
Here are the official regulations and below are my thoughts on the changes.
While the common topic of declining waterfowl license sales has echoed for years, there is still a healthy amount of hunters on the landscape. The evolving methods they use however have created less access to prime hunting lands. While there are a number of factors contributing to fewer waterfowl hunters, limiting access maybe the biggest. If hunters can’t get under birds, they’re not going to invest in the time and money it takes to chase ducks and geese.
But on the flip side, when you make a big investment to chase ducks and geese you want to have the best opportunity for success right? If you can afford to lease a hunting spot, why shouldn’t you be allowed to do so?That’s what makes the waterfowl world a difficult one today.
It’s easy to complain about these changes in Manitoba and as someone who is fortunate enough to hunt for more than 7 days in Canada, I’m not excited about them. The Dakotas have been dealing with similar issues for years and that’s why you see a draw in South Dakota and a two-week limit on non-residents in North Dakota.
I would prefer to see a bit longer for non-resident freelancers in Manitoba, but in reality a 7-day trip is probably all most hunters would need for one trip, aside from the hearty few who get to travel more.
Those hearty few however drive a lot of waterfowl interest. They’re the ones doing a lot of conservation work, donating time and money to the cause. They’re also the ones who mentor youth and create opportunities for others to experience a frosty morning in a duck blind. Does a shortened opportunity diminish chances for introductions to the tradition?
As a Minnesota resident, who hunts in areas that are popular, and at times frustratingly busy, I can see the appeal of a Manitoba resident hunter who has to deal with non-residents leasing up land his family has hunted for years. I don’t mind the residents having some preference when it comes to rights since they live, work and pay taxes there. But tourism drives a lot of the small economies and brings new money into the region and can’t be discouraged completely.
What exactly is the right answer? It’s difficult to say, but the limitations the Dakotas have placed on non-residents have kept me from waterfowling in their states almost completely. I haven’t been back to North Dakota in the fall since I moved out of the state and I’ve only hunted South Dakota waterfowl twice – once was an OTC 3-day license that was an add-on during a pheasant hunt.
When we drew a waterfowl license in South Dakota, it was only valid for a few days and we actually gave up and came home because all the birds were holed up on private land that we couldn’t access.
It’s hard to tell a landowner what to do on his property regarding situations like this, but as we’re seeing in North Dakota with the “airbnb” model of hunting leases, waterfowling could soon become a rich man’s game, and no one wants to see that. Fortunately there are still some public land opportunities and willing landowners that offer access.
As someone who travels often for hunting and fishing trips, I hate to see opportunities go away. But I understand the importance of protecting the resource. We’ll see how these new regulations impact hunting and tourism in Manitoba and thankfully it seems as though they’re willing to listen to those impacted to see if changes need to take place in the future.
Another side note, the spring conservation light goose season is not affected:
The spring conservation Canada, snow and Ross’s goose seasons are not subject to the new regulations pertaining to foreign residents. A separate Spring Conservation Goose Licence can be obtained free of charge from https://www.manitobaelicensing.ca/.